Is Our Education System Keeping Up With Current Research?

It’s clear there’s a broad gap between research findings being published and the application of the same findings in the classroom.

In a recent Weekend West Opinion article, Read the signs – it’s time for a brave new teaching world, by Alanna MacTiernan, a bold challenge is proposed to our education system as a whole. Failing a significant number of our students and adhering to outdated and unsupported research frameworks, it’s disturbing reading. I wish I could say I’m surprised but I’m not.

I’ve come across some interesting views on the topic of putting research into practice.

“Educational innovation is famous for its cycle of early enthusiasm, widespread dissemination, subsequent disappointment and eventual decline – the classics swing of the pendulum… One of the most important reasons for the continuing existence of the educational pendulum is that educators rarely wait for or demand hard evidence before adopting new practices on a wide scale. Of course every innovator claims research support for his or her methods; at a minimum there is usually a ‘gee-wiz’ story or two about a school or district that was “turned around” by the innovation. Alternatively, a developer may claim that, while the program itself has not been formally evaluated, the principles on which it is based are supported by research.”

Source: Slavin, R.E. (1989) PET and the Pendulum: Faddism in education and how to stop it. Phi Delta Kappan, 752-758.

Research not making it into the classroom

Some researchers suggest a 25 year time lag, but it could well be 30  or 50 years. At best, the figures being suggested are not based upon carefully researched data, but are essentially educated guesses. What is clear is the lag between the publication of significant research and its use in our schools is a significant one.

Asking difficult questions

In the area of reading research, the following points are basically established as “truths” and should be guiding our program and service provision to the children in our care.

  1. Phonological awareness has been described as the best single predictor of early reading performance. Source: Adams, M.J. (1996) Beginning to Read. MIT, USA.
    Question: If phonological awareness is our best predictor or early literacy success and if phonological awareness training is a way to prevent the rate of reading issues, how many of our early childhood centres and junior primaries have focused phonological awareness programs and processes in place?
  2. Research: “One of the most compelling findings from recent reading research is that children who get off to a poor start in reading rarely catch up…. The best solution to the problem of reading failure is to allocate resources for early identification and prevention.” Source: Joseph K. Torgesen (1998) Catch Them Before They Fall: Identification and Assessment to Prevent Reading Failure in Young Children.
    Question: How many of our schools commence offering “support” once the literacy difficulties have started to emerge? How many of our school’s are intervening prior to Year 1 and are investing in prevention rather than the more ineffective management of the established issue?
  3. Research: “Language deficits are closely associated with reading disabilities. In many cases, these language deficits precede and are causally linked to reading problems… the fact that language deficits are both the cause and consequence of reading problems ensures that language problems will be a major component of almost all cases of reading disabilities.”Source: Catts & Kamhi, 1999:116-117.
    Question: If oral language is a key component of almost all cases of literacy difficulties, how many of our schools are implementing programs that directly targeting this core deficient skill?

The hard truth about literacy education

Australian literacy results are a direct reflection of lowering entry levels into our schools combined with the fact many schools are responding with ineffective, dated and non-research based programs. Until we change how we’re teaching, we’re never going to get better results for our students.

The PLD Answer

PLD strives to assist this process. Because we’re a private company, we’re unencumbered by the bureaucracy plaguing education systems in every part of the globe. As a publisher of literacy and learning resources, our range draws from research contained within the disciplines of speech pathology, occupational therapy and education. Our Useful Links section of the PLD website provides a research reading list providing live links and sources of research upon which the PLD range is based.

PLD Learning Resources are suitable for the classroom or home environment. We develop our products to aid teachers and parents in the important work of readying each child for a successful life. Don’t hesitate to Contact Us if you have questions about childhood literacy.

Have you encountered outdated methods of teaching?

Source: Joseph K. Torgesen (1998) Catch Them Before They Fall: Identification and Assessment to Prevent Reading Failure in Young Children.